Henry M. Swenson

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Henry M. Swenson

Indianapolis, a nationally known periodontist, longtime aviator, avid water sports enthusiast, golfer, bridge player, ham radio operator and doer of too many other things for his family to remember, died July 21. He stayed young his entire life, but in years, he was 96.

Dr. Swenson helped create the Department of Periodontics at Indiana University School of Dentistry, was chairman of the division of clinical periodontics and led the graduate program. He held the longest faculty appointment in the history of the dental school, serving from 1943 to 2010. His 67 years at the school represented more than half of its existence. Dr. Swenson also operated a private practice in Indianapolis for more than 60 years, offering free cleanings to any patient who had been with him for 50 years in what sounded like a joke but wasn't. He served as president of the American Academy of Periodontology in the 1970s and was given its two highest honors: the Gold Medal and the Presidential Award. He was a co-founder of the Midwest Society of Periodontology and Indiana Society of Periodontology and served as president of both organizations. He was also a member of the Southern Academy of Periodontology, the Indiana Dental Association and the Indianapolis District Dental Society, which honored him in March for his 70 years of service.

His love of airplanes began as a teenager in Long Island, N.Y., where he learned the ropes at Roosevelt Field, the same airport from which Charles Lindbergh departed in his trans-Atlantic flight. Following World War II, Dr. Swenson served in the Civil Air Patrol. He began flying his own planes in the 1960s and soon thereafter, began rebuilding antique aircraft. He completed eight such projects, the last one when he was nearly 85 years old. A longtime member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Dr. Swenson also built an experimental biplane from scratch and later donated it to the EAA museum in Oshkosh, Wis. For many years, the Acro-Sport was prominently displayed at the EAA air show in Oshkosh, which draws thousands of people annually. Dr. Swenson continued to pilot planes into his 90s.

Growing up in Bellmore, N.Y., Dr. Swenson became an excellent swimmer and was a lifeguard at Jones Beach on Long Island. He continued to enjoy water sports much of his life. At age 80, a typical Saturday was water skiing in the morning, windsurfing in the early afternoon and flying later in the afternoon.

He also enjoyed golf for many years, though never took it too seriously. In fact, he seldom kept score. Would ruin a perfectly good day outdoors, he said. He was a member of Twin Lakes Golf Club.

Dr. Swenson was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug. 13, 1916, the son of Swedish immigrants Olaf and Sigrid (Holmgren) Swenson. As a young boy, his parents moved to Long Island, where the family operated a dairy farm. Later in life, the Brooklyn-born kid could wow rural friends with his milking prowess. He attended Clemson College and then earned bachelor and dental degrees from the University of Illinois. He completed a pathology fellowship at the Medical College of Virginia. While at Illinois, he met nursing student Theresa Boross on a blind date. They married two weeks after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 20, 1941, celebrating their 71st anniversary last year. He would serve in the U.S. Navy for one year during the war.

Besides his wife, survivors include children Carol (Ken) Jue, Keene, N.H.; Nancy (Michael) Kosares, Denver; Patti (Don) Beardsley, Raleigh, N.C.; and Tom (Jane) Swenson, Indianapolis; seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Services are at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Flanner and Buchanan Washington Park North , with calling from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Memorial contributions can be made to the Henry M. Swenson Scholarship Fund through the Indiana University Foundation. Sign an online guest book or send condolences at http://www.flannerbuchanan.com.

Funeral Home
Flanner and Buchanan - Washington Park North
2706 Kessler Blvd. West
Indianapolis, IN 46228
(317) 251-5959
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Published in the The Indianapolis Star on July 24, 2013
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